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Opportunity Knocks

New Years  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  23:56
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Rather than making resolutions, make the most of the opportunities God gives you.

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As we enter into a New Year, people all across this globe are making resolutions. New Year's resolutions have a notorious reputation of being unfulfilled. When I saw our New Year's Day bulletin cover I was inspired to see what the Bible says about resolutions and opportunities. This is what I discovered.

Opportunities are Made by God, Resolutions are Made by Men

Resolutions so often fail because they fail to take into account God's sovereignty. The Proverbs explore this theme in Proverbs 16:1-9.
Proverbs 16:1 ESV
The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
The section concludes with these words:
Proverbs 16:9 ESV
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
The Bible does not teach that making plans is a bad thing. In fact, there are a number of places we are commanded to be resolved. For example, in preparation for persecution and being dragged before courts, Jesus gives this commandment.
Luke 21:14 ESV
Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer,
The Greek word the ESV translated "settle" has the sense of "to be resolved".
One more example. In Romans 14:13, Paul commands us "to resolve not to place a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother."
However, we need to understand that all the circumstances in our life are under God sovereign control. We may never have "the opportunity" to be dragged before a law court or to be a stumbling block to a brother. The problem with resolutions as most people make them is the presumption that they are "Captains of their own ships," when in fact we are not even the first mate!
A much better plan of action for this New Year, is not to begin with our desires, but with God's! What opportunities has God placed in your life? How would he have you make the most of those opportunities? Listen again to our scripture lesson, but this time from the ESV.
Ephesians 5:15–17 ESV
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Did you notice that where the NIV used "opportunity," the editors of the ESV chose to translate it "making the best use of the time"? These minor differences between English translations are helpful to us in understanding the meaning of the biblical text. Time is an "opportunity" and to use it wisely we need to "understand what the will of the Lord is."
Therefore resolutions are not "acts of the human will" by which we mold our reality in the image of our will, but rather acts of the will by which we mold ourselves to God's will and God's reality.
Some of the "opportunities" you will have this New Year are not "opportunities" you would choose, but with the right mindset they can be an "opportunity for great joy."
James 1:2–4 NLT
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Of course, we don't always make the most of our opportunities, especially "opportunities" of trouble and pain. This is too bad, but because another thing Scripture teaches us is that unlike resolutions, opportunities are fleeting.

Opportunities are Fleeting, Resolutions are Recycled

The phrase "making the best use of the time" in Eph 5:16, is literally "redeeming the time". This is the way the KJV translates this verse.
Ephesians 5:16 KJV 1900
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Because of the Fall, the default tendency of each day is towards evil. If we do nothing, the opportunities God has given to us each day will be opportunities for the Devil and sin. This truth is brought home to us in Eph 4:27.
Ephesians 4:27 ESV
and give no opportunity to the devil.
If we are not intentional about making our opportunities for good, the Devil and sin will make them opportunities for evil.
Another verse that teaches us that opportunities are fleeting is Philippians 4:10.
Philippians 4:10 ESV
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.
In this second point I say that "Resolutions are Recycled". People make the same resolutions year, after year, after year. There is not sense of urgency in resolutions, but opportunities may not come around again. The Roman governor had the wonderful opportunity to sit under the preaching of the apostle Paul. Listen what happened:
Acts 24:24–27 ESV
After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.
How sad! God gave Felix a Jewish wife and two years to hear the preaching of Paul, finally the day came when God withdraw his opportunity. In 2017 don't let your opportunities slip by!
This is especially important when we consider the final point:

Opportunities Have Eternal Consequences, Resolutions Rarely Last

Few people take resolutions seriously because the rarely last. New Year's resolution have becomes something of a joke in our society, but not so with opportunities. Opportunities have eternal consequences. Beginning in verse 18 of chapter 5 and continuing all the way to Ephesians 6:20, Paul explains what it means "to make the most of the opportunities" according to the "will of God."
We are not to be filled with wine, but the Spirit. (Eph 4:18)
We are to be involved in corporate praise and thanksgiving to God. (Eph 4:19-20)
We are to submit and serve each other, especially our spouses, children, employees and employers. (Eph 4:21-6:9).
We are to engage in spiritual warfare against the forces of darkness. (Eph 6:10-17)
We are to pray for each other, especially those who are proclaiming the Gospel. (Eph 6:18-20)
In all these things Heaven and Hell, Life and Death are at stake!
Most New Year's resolutions don't last because nothing more than our vanity and pride are at stake, not so with the opportunities God will give us this New Year.
Opportunity is knocking, do you hear it? Will you resolve to make the most of these opportunities or will you waste your time making resolutions you will never keep?
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